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Beyond Resolutions: True Transformation For The New Year

by | Jan 1, 2024 | Articles, Resources

It’s the year 2024. 

Seeing that date in writing feels like the opening line of a sci-fi movie to me. I guess living in a world where we can order food to the house, turn our lights on and off, and play any song we can think of just by speaking into the air is kind of like living in a sci-fi movie. We’re just a flying car away from being the Jetsons. Oh wait, we have those, too? And don’t even get me talking about generative A.I. Welcome to Orbit City.

Who knows what this New Year will bring, but I’m certain a lot of us have some self-improvement aspirations in mind. 

I’ve never been much for New Year’s Resolutions. If you feel the need to make a change in your life, why wait until January 1? I mean, a new year technically starts every day. But there is something about the flipping of that last digit that does instinctively cause us to reflect, and I think some introspection is always worthwhile. 

THE GAP

I’m instinctively aware of the gap that exists between who I am and who I want to be, but there are some specific things on my mind for 2024. Here’s one: 

I’d like to temper my general angst while I am driving. 

Some might call it road rage, but I prefer navigation aggravation or some other kinder sounding euphemism.

My typical demeanor is relatively congenial, but if you drive 10 mph under the speed limit, don’t pull into the intersection on a yielded left turn, honk at me as soon as the light turns green, or (heaven forbid) try to pass me on a roundabout, I will murder you in my heart

And while I intend this to be lighthearted and humorous, it’s really not. It’s a part of my sin nature that oozes out when I’m emotionally squeezed. I don’t like it, and I want to do better in 2024.

SELF-DISCIPLINE

So I’m trying a few thought experiments this year that I hope will help. 

When a driver rides my tail or maniacally swerves past me in the outside lane of a roundabout, I just assume there’s a pregnant lady about to give birth in the backseat and they’re just desperately rushing to get to the hospital.

Or when that car is doing 25 in a 40 on a two-lane double-yellow, I imagine a nervous 15 year old girl is learning to drive just like mine had to do a few years back. No sane man gets angry at that, right? 

These mental exercises are helpful, and I think making efforts to harness our sin-nature are noble and even godly acts. But while these behavioral tricks can keep my emotions in check, they don’t actually fix what’s wrong with me. Discipline is good, but transformation is what I need. And only the Gospel can do that.

EFFORT VS. EARNING

That’s why I’ve always loved this quote from the late pastor, Jack Miller. I revisit it every year at this time:

The only New Year’s Resolution I make every year is to collapse more fully on Christ. I trust in Jesus’ resolve, not mine.”

I love that imagery – collapsing on Christ. 

You see, our instinct is to treat Christianity like every other world religion or secular self-help strategy; as if the Bible is just a how-to manual with tips for successful living outlined in its pages. 

The Scriptures are not just a moral ladder for us to climb. The Bible is a Story! It’s the Grand Narrative of a God who pursued His beloved and lost Creation across the fracture that sin so devastatingly carved out between us.

As Tim Keller loved to say, the Gospel isn’t just good advice, it’s Good News! It’s the great “euangelion,” the announcement that God has done for us what we could never do for ourselves

And it’s that power I want to tap into as I look ahead to the New Year. Look at Romans 1:16:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the POWER OF GOD that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” (emphasis mine)

The Gospel isn’t just ancient advice for living a better life. It’s not just some Jedi mind-trick or behavioral control strategy. It’s power. The Gospel is POWER. It’s Christ’s work for me that enables me to live differently, not because I can self-discipline all the ugliness out of my broken sin-nature, but because Jesus’ death and resurrection can actually transform me into a different person. 

The Gospel turns me into more of the person I was designed to be before sin hijacked my identity.

NUCLEAR POWER PLANT OF GOD’S GRACE

The power of the Gospel does not mean that I abandon my effort and responsibility. I think Dallas Willard captured this well:

“Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning.”

But if I really want to become new, I must collapse on the only power that can truly resurrect me. And so I work hard, I resolve to make changes, I discipline my choices; but I strive from grace not for it. My starting point is Jesus’ finished work!

So as I ponder the improvements I know I need to make in the New Year, I need to embrace the ongoing act of repentance. The prayer of repentance isn’t just for the moment of salvation. It’s a life-long, daily returning to a posture of dependence, not on what I need to do, but on what Jesus has already done for us. 

Repentance attaches my self-discipline to the nuclear power plant of God’s grace. It’s transformational fuel for my efforts. On my own, I may be able to temporarily manage my sin-nature. In Christ, I can become something new altogether! 

ALL THINGS NEW

In a way, the turning of a New Year is a foreshadowing of the true renewal yet to come. Jesus made us a promise in Revelation 21:5:

“Look, I am making everything new!”

I am trusting in that promise for all creation as well as my “navigation aggravation.” 

So let’s make our resolutions. Let’s discipline our habits. But let’s most assuredly collapse completely and totally on Jesus. Only He can make you a new creation!

HOW ABOUT YOU?

1. What’s one thing you want to change in the New Year?

2. What disciplines can you put in place to harness that effort?

3. What is the underlying issue you need to repent of?

4. How can you attach your self-discipline to the “power plant” of God’s grace?

Erik Cooper

After starting his career in the business world, Erik spent 12 years in full-time ministry, both on staff at a large suburban church and as a church planter in a downtown urban context. In addition to his role at The Stone Table, he also serves as the Vice President of Community Reinvestment Foundation, a nonprofit real estate company that provides high-quality affordable housing all over Indiana while investing its profits into missions through The Stone Table.

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